Reg Strikes Back

Okay, folks, here's the real comeback. After a successful throat operation, Elton John is back with urgent shouting and playful crooning. The forty-one-year-old songster has also discarded his flamboyant image, including the dandy outfits.

A throwback to his inspired pop rock of the Seventies, Reg Strikes Back is cathartic for Elton John. On the melodic "Town of Plenty," which sports lightly thrashy guitar chords by Pete Townshend, Elton lashes out at the taunting, cynical media as if he were the giant and they were the flies. The housecleaning continues on "Goodbye Marlon Brando," as Elton sings of ridding himself of everything from New Age music to glasnost. Chris Thomas's production shines with loud and snotty arrangements that perfectly balance Elton's hatchet-sharp invectives against pop culture and society.

The transformed Elton can still rock like a kid with something to prove. "Heavy Traffic" is a furtive, purgative rocker full of drugs and sex, with an Uzi-quick honky-tonk piano. Indeed, throughout Reg Strikes Back, Elton John grips gritty rock reality by the throat and never releases that hold.